John Dewey's Democracy And Education

Read Complete Research Material


John Dewey's Democracy and Education

John Dewey's Democracy and Education


After having read John Dewey's Democracy and Education, published in 1916, James B. Conant commented that he had the feeling that if Dewey (1859-1952) had not existed, he would have had to be invented. As one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century, Dewey had orchestrated pragmatism and the idea of progress with the U.S. democratic experience through education.

In his autobiographical account, Dewey briefly traced his journey from undergraduate years at the University of Vermont to graduate studies in philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. He pointed out that university faculty at the time was clergymen, but he added that the theological phase of his studies had no lasting influence on his intellectual development, except negatively. Dewey related that his upbringing in Vermont where he was born followed a conventionally evangelical path of the more liberal kind, but his struggles that were to arise between acceptance of the faith of his upbringing and his eventual discarding of traditional and institutional needs emerged not from philosophical teaching, but from personal experience.


From Absolutism to Experimentalism

In his autobiographical essay, aptly titled “From Absolutism to Experimentalism,” Dewey identified four connecting turning points that were to define his philosophical transformation. First was his recognition of the significance of the practice and theory of education in influencing the young, including himself. This point led to his realization that what otherwise might have developed as separate interests in psychology, social institutions, and social life became fused in his own thinking. Dewey noted that a critic had indicated that Dewey's thinking was permeated too much by interest in education. However, Dewey expressed doubt that any philosophic critics had ever become acquainted with Democracy and Education, which Dewey regarded as his most fully, expounded philosophic work at the time. To Dewey, it was ironic that philosophers in general had not taken education with sufficient seriousness when they themselves are usually teachers. For had they done so, continued Dewey, it might have occurred to them that any rational person would come to regard education as the supreme human interest.

The second turning point in Dewey's philosophical development was his growing concern over the pervading dualism between science and morals, a dualism that he considered nothing short of an intellectual scandal in philosophical thought, for science is based upon the moral principle guiding systematic inquiry to find and act upon the best available evidence.

The third turning point, according to Dewey, was the realization of the biological conception of mind as advanced by William James. Although many philosophers had addressed the idea of organism, their approach was mainly structural and static. For James, and later Dewey, we must think of life pragmatically as life in action. Like life, education is defined by growth and renewal.

Dewey's fourth turning point was his vision of an integration or synthesis of a philosophy congruous with modern science and relevant to actual problems and needs in education, morals, and ...
Related Ads